Getting Ready for Spring
Spring is approaching. For most people the mild weather this winter has left us feeling like spring has been teasing us for a month. We are quickly approaching that time of year when it is time to get back out into the yard and get things ready for the lawn to take off and look its best. Here are a few reminders and tips to consider as we get ready to prepare our lawns for another season.
The first thing to remember is that even though there isn’t any snow on the ground doesn’t mean that it’s time to start mowing and fertilizing like it’s June. It is still early in the season and the temperatures are still very mild, the optimum temperature for turf growth is 60-75 degrees, so we have some time. As you can tell by looking out into your lawn and others, the grass might be waking up but it’s not ready to run the race just yet. Think of your lawn like trying to rouse your kids out of bed, they take a lot of poking and prodding to get them up, and even once they are up it still takes them a little while to get moving and ready to tackle there day. So take your time and let the lawn wake up on its own, don’t worry it wants to get to full strength but it doesn’t happen overnight and especially not in March.
There are things that you can do to help the lawn wake up and cure the cabin fever and get out in the yard and do a little work. The first thing is to pick up all of the trash and sticks and debris that have fallen all on the lawn over the winter. This includes picking up the remaining leaves that have fallen since your lawn was cleaned up last fall (or finishing the job that you didn’t get finished last fall) sticks and limbs, and landscape material that may have blown around. Now that you have the lawn cleaned up you will notice the weak or thin areas as well as the areas of the lawn that are matted down. There are a number of things that can cause these areas to appear. Some examples are grub damage from last year leaves left sitting on the turf for too long last fall or over the winter, snow mold, and the snow in general leaves the entire lawn looking matted down. All of these areas are easy to fix and it all starts with a couple of simple tasks. The first is to take a leaf rake and rough up the problem areas, what you are trying to do here is get the turf that is there stood up and allows some of the warmer air to get to the crowns of the plant. We are also breaking up and removing any and all of the dead material that will later be chopped up by the mower. Snow mold can be a very common thing in our lawns, but it’s nothing to be alarmed about. Snow mold is leaf blight and by roughing those areas up with a rake you will see the plant’s new growth emerge and the blighted area will be removed by the mower. You can also seed any of the areas that you feel are weak and thin, just sprinkle some seed in those areas and lightly rake the areas again to ensure good seed to soil contact. You will also need to make sure that you keep these areas damp over the following couple of weeks(make sure you are not soaking the area with water, only a light sprinkling on a regular basis). Now the lawn in ready for its initial mowing, it is ok to drop the height down a little (maybe one click on your mower) to remove the dead and yellow plant material and to give the lawn a uniform look. Make sure that your mower blade is sharp, especially when dropping the height because you want to cut the grass blade not rip it which exposes muscle tissue and can cause yellowing of the lawn to occur. Also make sure that you are never mowing any more than 1/3 of the leaf blade off in a single mowing. This will cut into the muscle tissue of the plant and can open the plant up to disease or insect damage. All that we are trying to do with this first mowing is give the lawn a nice haircut to get it ready for the season.
Following these simple tasks will give your lawn an excellent start to the growing season. You will also feel good getting out and doing some yard work after being locked in the house all winter. Just remember that the season will be long, so don’t burn yourself out in the beginning. The lawn and Mother Nature will do most of the work, all we are trying to do is some light grooming so that it starts off on the right foot.